Understanding waste as something valuable not only requires new systems but massive paradigm shifts too.
Today we talk to Maayke Damen about the work she is doing in this regard with her company, Excess Materials Exchange, a digital marketplace with the core goal of matching waste with its highest value reuse destination.
Maayke tells us about the research she began to do about taxing resources rather than labor and the potential this shift would present in the way products are purchased and disposed of. To tax in this new way, we would need a system to correctly identify the materials that make up products, and the work Maayke did to create this system was what led her to found EME. From there, we dive into the inner workings of the EME marketplace platform and how it functions to identify waste and match it with its highest reuse destination.
Along with all this, we talk to Maayke about the challenges to implementing more circular waste management processes, highlighting the paradigm shift required for these shifts to occur, and the effectiveness EME presents toward this end being an impact rather than a profit-led company.
At the end of the day though, reusing waste does not just save the planet, but money too, and Maayke talks about how she has had to present her case from an economic rather than environmental perspective to actually get companies on board.
For all this and more about exciting developments in the narratives and technologies surrounding waste reuse, be sure to tune in.
Maayke-Aimée Damen (MSc. honours) is a pioneer in circular economy and sustainability.
She takes her inspiration from nature to reform economic and industrial systems.
She currently does that with the Excess Materials Exchange (EME) a dating site for secondary materials.
She also developed the Resources Passport that has now been made into Dutch and European policy.
“We actively match supply and demand of secondary materials or products and we match them with their highest value reuse assignation." - Maayke Damen, @MaaykeDamen
Tune in to find out:
- What EME does to match waste with its highest value reuse assignation.
- How Maayke’s research on taxing materials rather than labour led to the birth of EME.
- The idea that what EME does is change a paradigm; the 10-year slog this has taken.
- The system Maayke created to give resources an identity in order to tax them.
- Key industries EME works with who are able to use waste materials.
- Challenges involved in getting information about what is in a product and how to repurpose it.
- Why more circular paradigms around waste reuse are becoming more popular.
- Weighing up economic and environmental arguments for a circular economy.
- Handholding and partnerships required to onboard companies to handle circular processes.
- An example of how the EME marketplace platform matches old railway steel with its highest value reuse assignation.
- How the platform matches supply and demand without having to get into specifics of what is in products.
- The pilot project EME did with big companies to find higher value destinations for their waste.
- How the EME waste passport helps to rethink how products are assembled to make them more recyclable.
- Where companies EME works with are located and the potential it has to become a global platform.
- Where to find EME online and learn more about what they do.
- And much more!
Links mentioned in this episode:
Read our follow up article:
“We look 17 waste streams for 10 companies at the time and we created ... 64 million in financial value for these companies. We reduced the amount of carbon emission equal to everyone in Amsterdam." - Maayke Damen, @MaaykeDamen
Barry O'Kane 0:05
Hello and welcome back to HappyPorch Radio, where we're talking about Circular Economy and all the cool technology and cool things that enable it. This episode I'm delighted to be joined again by Emily and our guest Maayke Damen. Maayke Damen is a pioneer in the circular economy and sustainability. She takes her inspiration from nature to reform economic and industrial systems. And she currently does that with the Excess Materials Exchange, the EME, which is a dating site for secondary materials. She also developed the resources passport that has now been made into Dutch and European policy. Another, I thought, really inspiring conversation, Emily.
Emily Swaddle 0:47
Yeah, it was really cool to hear about the Excess Materials Exchange, and also hear a bit about how it came about how it's been a bit of a journey getting there and a journey to bring people on board. It's really interesting to hear these stories.
Barry O'Kane 1:04
And from a product or technology and sort of point of view of what's becoming very much a theme for me, is that is the focus on in her own words paradigm change, or a company that's focused on impact. And there being so many different parts that the technology is just a small, it's just the how it's almost. It's almost only part of the solution.
Emily Swaddle 1:24
Yeah. Yeah, it's really interesting. And as well, the kind of with that paradigm change. There's a lot of convincing that needs to come into it and a lot of kind of persuasion. And I think that we're in an interesting time right now. Because as Maayke says, she kind of started this 10 years ago, this whole thought process, the whole seed of this company started 10 years ago. And now things are in the right place, kind of socially and politically, I suppose. For it to be taking off so much more, which is a really interesting time to talk to these people.
Barry O'Kane 1:56
Definitely, definitely. And I'm constantly inspired by businesses like this by people like Maayke. And so it's a real pleasure to get to speak to her and share a little taster of the work that she's doing and her approach to it all. So without any further ado, let's meet Mike.
Maayke Damen 2:18
Hi, guys. Thanks for having me.
My name is Maayke, and I'm the founder of the Excess Materials Exchange, which we describe as a dating site for secondary materials.
Barry O'Kane 2:29
Thank you so much for joining us. It's really cool to have you here. I hadn't actually really connected the dating site part. That's pretty cool little one line description. Can you talk a little bit more about what that means and what type materials and who you're matching between and kind of set some context?
Maayke Damen 2:45
Yeah, of course.
So we describe it as a dating site because it's a lot easier for people to relate to, but what we actually do is we actively match supply and demand of secondary materials or products and we match them with their highest value reuse destination. And what that actually means is that with a very simple example, coffee leftovers for a restaurant that is waste, you're not going to make coffee twice out of coffee leftovers, but they can't really do anything with it anymore. So they usually pay to get rid of it. But you can also use it to extract pigments for ink, or make bio plastic out of it, or fibers or water filters or grow mushrooms on it. And you can actually all do that in a cascade. And this is a lot higher value than just actually paying to get rid of it and then maybe gets burned. So we see that this is possible for coffee leftovers, but actually for the majority of the materials. And hence we started the EME as we say, to actually look for these high value destinations for all the materials that we throw away because we throw away a lot at this point in time and we can actually still do things with it. And we see that there's actually four sectors that are really interesting in what we do, and that is mainly building construction infrastructure, packaging, organics, like the coffee, leftovers, and textiles.
Barry O'Kane 4:10
And so the sectors you're describing there, those are sectors that have that those waste materials, and they're looking to share or use it. Is that right?
Maayke Damen 4:18
yeah. or looking to actually use secondary materials in their processes. So for example, in buildings, to see if they can actually reuse part of the facade in a new building, they're making or reuse the flooring or the ceiling tiles of the or the cables.
Things like that.
Barry O'Kane 4:38
Awesome. I want to dig into that in a bit more detail. But before we do that, let's step back a little bit and talk about you I guess, and what led you to found EME?
Maayke Damen 4:49
Yeah, that's a good question. People usually expect this sort of an epiphany answer. I don't have that answer. It's actually this slow story that evolved over my life. But a part of it is that I was working on changing the tax system. And I know that when I mentioned taxes, people are usually like yawn, can we talk about something else. But this in this case, the proposed tax changes, actually, instead of taxing labour, which we heavily tax, especially in the West, right now, tax resources. And an easy example to understand that is, if your toaster breaks down, right now, you just throw it away and buy a new one because it's a lot cheaper than having it repaired. And that is because labour is really expensive, hence repair is really expensive. And virgin materials are basically not taxed at all. So buying a new one is cheap. If you switch that you can create a completely different framework in which society and businesses operate.
So at the time, I was doing the first research on how to actually implement this for the Dutch government budget neutrally, because of course the government is depending on the taxes they get. Then there's a lot to be found on labour taxes, but there was nothing really about resource taxes. Like, it's, I thought, okay, I'll just Google it. Yeah, find the list. There's a list that wasn't there at all. And then I invented a system to give resources an identity because otherwise you don't know what you're, what you have in your company and what exactly to tax at all. And that led to a process of about 10 years, and now we're 10 years on and we're using this with the EME as well.
Barry O'Kane 6:28
That's really interesting. I completely connect with what you're saying there about it being these things being a journey. It's so often, the assumption is like you say, there's an epiphany or something, but actually, for really powerful stuff it's always in my experience, a journey like a sometimes a bit of a slog. Was it hard getting through to that point and getting to where you are now?
Maayke Damen 6:52
Yeah. I also think that people always expect to say no, it's fine.
But it's not. I mean, it's really hard. I think what we do with EME is we change a paradigm, we started the company, because I believe that we can do it differently and that it is possible, but the showing that you can do it differently and sort of like the metaphor I heard the other day, making a flower bloom for the first time, whereas it has never flowered before is really hard. You have to pave the way for everything because it is a paradigm shift. So companies don't operate in this framework. They don't think in this framework, the individuals in the companies don't, it's not a priority for them. And luckily, we have a lot of the trends going for us. So it's becoming easier and easier. But I mean, I invented the resources passport 10 years ago, and only now it's becoming a thing. So yeah, actually showing people that this matters and that they financially benefit from it and it is actually really good for the environment is a journey.
Barry O'Kane 8:02
Yeah, I can imagine. The resources passport. That's something I meant to pick up with the starter mentioned at the start. So that's something that you say you came up with it and is now in significant use, especially in Netherlands is, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Maayke Damen 8:17
Yeah, so in order to actually start taxing resources, you need to know what is in your product. And then I found out that we don't really know what's in our products, oddly enough, and all the information is completely dispersed over the supply chain, but not gathered, not structured, not digitised, and hence, actually, really not usable in any form. So then I thought we need to have a system to give resources an identity and to know what is in your product, where is it from, how is it composed? Can you actually take it apart? Can you repair it? And this information is required if you for example, want to make a business case for repair or recycling because otherwise If you don't know what's in it, how much money are you going to put in to get it out? You can't make that calculation. So that is where it's very helpful. But you can do tons of other things with it as well.
Emily Swaddle 9:11
Yeah, that's really interesting. It struck me from your website, that that's kind of a big part of your offering of your service, that that kind of gathering of the information that is out there somewhere, but not available to those people who need it. And you mentioned already the kind of key industries that you work with the construction industry, textiles, etc. That seems like that there could be really broad products and materials within all that. So is it a challenge to kind of find all that information? Are you constantly researching lots of things? Or has it all come together? Kind of over the years, and now it's a bit more of a smoother process?
Maayke Damen 9:51
Indeed, it is. I mean, 10 years ago, people were like in companies like what ,what are you talking about, whereas now, some company means that we work with actually have started to gather this information because you need information about the processes that you use on your product on the materials that are in there in order to, for example, make environmental impact calculations. And hence, the whole discussion around reducing carbon emissions has been really beneficial for companies in gathering this information. So we see that the process is going smoother and smoother. But especially when companies have their supply chains going back to China, you literally run into a Chinese wall like that it's really hard to extract the information there. So what we do is we really look at what is the purpose of extracting this information because just registering information for the sake of registering is not necessarily what I'm after. So what we're really after is making this high value match and what do you need in order to make that match? So hence, we focus on the main parts of the information needs. Yeah.
Emily Swaddle 10:56
And also, I imagine you have to be kind of at the forefront of any Technology, your new materials that are coming up and how these might fit into the framework of other materials that are being used and how they can create value for other products and things.
Maayke Damen 11:12
Yeah, for sure. And what I was really surprised about when we started with this is that what we really look at is for example, functionality. For example, if we look at an orange peel, yeah, like the orange outer layer and the white inner layer, and you can do lots of things with both, but this information is known in like very specific niche sectors but not widely known. So if I would have orange peels leftovers, my expertise is not knowing what to do with the orange be leftovers because I'm probably producing orange juice. So that is my expertise. And that information, what to do with the peals is not internally available. So you would need another company which company do you need? This has never been a priority for companies to look at their material streams, they just contact the waste processor, pay them like here, this is a weekly batch, enjoy it. So it requires a whole new way of looking at products about classifying products, especially to make this information available between different sectors. So that is what we do with EME We actually come up with a standardised format in order to make this comparison easier.
Emily Swaddle 12:24
Yeah. What is it do you think was holding companies back from kind of putting resources into finding out that information before? Because as you said, lots of companies actually have to pay for their waste to be taken away. And that's, you know, something that they could maybe have avoided if they had found these connections before EME came along.
Maayke Damen 12:46
For sure. And many things, I think, one is that virgin resources were extremely cheap. So hence, there was no incentive at all to just buy new resources to waste processing. There wasn't any other destination, like people didn't think about it. So where else would they have had to go. Plus the timing of waste processing is quite delicate. Sometimes you can't have waste piling up in your in your operation. So, yeah, that was well arranged. They didn't have the information about the product. So I mean, they also had no way of knowing what the value of their waste actually was. And this whole idea of material scarcities or Circular Economy, especially revolving around materials and waste, this whole narrative wasn't going on in the world. So people just weren't thinking about it. And they didn't have any need to do so either. At the time, and now what we see and I think one of the big reasons that it came up in Europe is that around 2008, 2009, a lot of the materials that we use in our electronics or MRI scanners and things like that. They're called rare earth elements. It's a group of elements and we mainly get them from China. But at the time, China was realising we import the majority of it. And they're like, oh, let's put in place export quota and export restrictions. And this resulted in huge supply disruptions and price volatility in Europe. And then Europe started realising, hey, wait, we are extremely dependent for key infrastructure on materials coming from regions that I mean, can do their own thing as China did with these export restrictions. Hence, I thought, wait, but we have the majority of the materials already here. Why aren't we doing anything with it? Why are we shipping it back to China? And hence this whole discussion really took flight.
Emily Swaddle 12:46
Right? That's really interesting that there's actually a bit of kind of historical political impact to the whole storyline.
Maayke Damen 12:50
Emily Swaddle 14:53
You've mentioned kind of the whole idea of bringing value to waste product. Can you tell us a bit more about your kind of philosophy of finding that high of value for waste?
Maayke Damen 15:03
Sure, I think for me things like intrinsically have value. And I have been always very surprised about how we all of a sudden classify things as worthless because I can't use them anymore and don't look with a systems perspectives on how other agents within that system can actually use it. And if you start looking at what we're doing with the systems perspective, all of a sudden it becomes very logical that things are still valuable for other players. And I mean, we see this happening in nature. So if you take that analogy, if a tree dies, all the resources are not wasted. Lots of bacteria and animals and the whole surrounding environment actually uses those resources. How come we in human society aren't doing that? And building upon that over my life, I've been looking like how can we replicate that how can we actually learn from that and implement it in our own economic systems?
Barry O'Kane 16:06
What you're describing there as well is one of the places where I think Circular Economy concepts or terminology and language actually makes sense to what I describe as traditional old-school, economic thinking. And that, where's the monetary value and the argument about a very often the argument about environmental impacts falls on or is put a lower priority. Whereas what you're describing is there's inherent value, in every sense in the things that are in those materials. And those things that we technically own are the word throwing away and wasting otherwise.
Maayke Damen 16:41
Yeah, I think that's also showing this financial value has been very key to the success of EME because we didn't necessarily start a for profit company. Because we wanted to show the financial value at all we wanted to show that we could use reduce environmental impact, but the storyline that we need is like, hey, companies, you can actually make money or save money with this. And that has been very beneficial.
Barry O'Kane 17:10
So, changing tack slightly to talk a little bit more about the specifics of the service and the platform you have. Do you find that businesses are coming now to saying, Hey, you know, we know exactly what's going on, and we're ready to work with you. We just need to plug in your technology? Or is there a more is there a much more hand holding educational process where you need to work with them to kind of work out how to gather this information as well as the actual practical gathering and sharing of information and the and the materials themselves?
Maayke Damen 17:44
Yeah, they require a lot of hand holding. And that there's not a lot anything negative for because they're not educated. It's just extremely new. This is a completely new way of operating the business. For example, we were working with a company that owns materials and all of a sudden thought, Okay, great, we can reuse them, let's sell them, but they were not handling that process. And when we said okay, but this is the value if you actually start selling it, they're like, okay, okay, let's do that. And then the first barrier they ran into is that they didn't have a sales departments within their organisation, because traditionally they had never done that. And that is just one example, like organisations are not tailored on dealing with the Circular Economy is just a completely new way of operating your business. And hence, they are very educated individuals, but to actually get an organisation along with what we do, it requires a lot of hand holding. And hence we mainly work in partnerships to actually take people along on this journey.
Barry O'Kane 18:47
And so those partnerships are those you mean people with people who are providing that kind of specialist, I guess, paradigm changes the word used earlier. They're sort of consultants as change management process. Is it different types of partnerships?
Maayke Damen 19:01
We see it as two types of partnerships. One is actually that we don't ever pretend to a company that we have the silver bullet to like, we set this up based upon our expertise, our knowledge, like the last 10 years that we've been working on this, we can help you please tag along. But we, we always look at the context in which we're operating with the company. So it's not like they're just a client, and they can just lean back and we plug it in, we really do that in dialogue. And then secondly, we see that if you're actually starting to look at what we currently classify as waste differently, there's a lot of legal implications, for example. So we work with a law firm to actually streamline the process and help these companies deal with that better.
Barry O'Kane 19:50
I keep coming back to that phrase, use paradigm shift because you're talking there about, you know, an example of a business that's kind of needing to think rethink their business model because they haven't had sales people to sell the stuff before, and then they sort of operational impact of that that you're describing. And then there's also the digital passport stuff of actually gathering and there's so much different parts to that jigsaw.
Maayke Damen 20:14
Yeah, absolutely. And that's why we are a, as we say, an impact company. We're not here to immediately create a huge profit for ourselves. But we're here to make an impact and create a transition. So it's a very different outlook on what we're doing with the company.
Barry O'Kane 20:33
Yeah, I love that. I think it's absolutely inspiring.
Emily Swaddle 20:36
Presumably, as Barry said, the different parts of the puzzle, presumably for each organisation, kind of they have different parts. There's no one size fits all solution to this, I imagine.
Maayke Damen 20:48
No, no, not really. However, we do offer a technology platform basically. So we do want to narrow it down. So what we also are working on is basically narrowing the funnel. Like now it's a very wide scope. We're saying, Hey guys, you're all dealing with parts of that issue. Here. We narrowed it down for you, if you see uses that will help, but that's really based upon what we see them running into. There's different things, but there is trends in what we see that they're running into.
Emily Swaddle 21:19
Barry O'Kane 21:22
So I saw there's some good examples on your website as well. So maybe there's an example you can share with us that kind of brings that to life. How exactly does the if my business is starting to work with you and where does the platform fit in? What does it actually do?
Maayke Damen 21:38
Yeah. So for example, a company that we work with is the Dutch Railway Company. They're responsible for the maintenance and extension of the Dutch railway track. And that's really high quality steel like the the railway tracks that the train goes over. So then we look at like, so where's it going now? And what can we do with it? Other than what you're doing with it currently, and we found out that currently it's been sold for a scrap metal price and usually goes to Asia, whereas you can also reuse it as load bearing beams in constructions in buildings. This is a lot higher value plus it stays in the Netherlands Plus, you don't have to remelt it - so put in all the energy to ship it and remelt it. So you're saving a lot of environmental impact with that. So with them, we started with this, we investigated that. And then they have of course, many locations over the Netherlands where they produce or where they have all kinds of material elements that that might be reused or not are not usable in that location anymore. So then we set up a marketplace for them to look at like what is actually present at these locations, and what is the requirement for new projects that we have so that we can actually match the supply and demand for them internally.
Barry O'Kane 22:58
And so the platform is that marketplace, which is the online side, is that right? And then your side also talks about the tracking part. I don't know if that's relevant to this specific example, but in terms of literally tracking those physical materials.
Maayke Damen 23:15
Yeah. So, so, how we actually go about is we have four main tools. So, the first tool is a resources passport. Like you need to give this piece of railway track and identity because was it in a curve, was it the straight part was it a part that was used a lot or not, has been in the track for 20 years or 40 years. So we give it an identity. Based upon that identity, we can look for other solutions. But the resources passport is step one. Then the tracking and tracing part comes in, because where is it located? Is it in the north of the Netherlands, in the south, is it on a track that is being used like every 10 minutes, you need to know that in order to see what you can do with it. Then we have a valuation module and this is actually to give an insight in what the end of life value of this can be. So currently, the end of live value of these railway tracks is negative very often because they pay to get rid of it and they don't get much for it. Sometimes they sell it, it depends a bit on the transportation costs on the labour costs involved. But its really not a lot. And then we calculate the environmental impact of that, like what is all the energy that has been used in order to produce it, what have been the effects on the environment, and with all that information, we look for the highest value match because it's very context dependent. What the matches and here is also where for example, legal comes in, in one location and sends 500 meters up, they have sometimes a completely different legal classification and hence what you can do with it is very different. This also holds true for railway tracks. So the matches that we make are context dependent. So we have the resources passport, the tracking and tracing the valuation, and then the matchmaking and that all comes together in the marketplace.
Barry O'Kane 25:08
Thank you that really helps to, as you say, bring it to life. So, so you've got so much going on that I feel like it must be quite challenging. You've got the first time you you and your team are looking at railway tracks. Is it a case of Oh, now we need to go and learn all the science and engineering of how steel and what's specific about railway tracks and the people working on your technology? How much do you get into the very specifics of each use case, versus providing the tools that let them kind of work through the process.
Maayke Damen 25:39
It really depends on the situation. So what we do very often is we work with the material experts within the company, or we work with a network of material experts if we need it. If we look at for example, orange peels, there are a lot of processes that use orange peels to make them into for example detergents or fabrics for clothing. So we will have a gigantic database filled with options of what you can do with materials. As I said in the beginning, this information isn't really known to the company itself, because that's not their core business. So no one within that company has that information. Because we have that whole database, we don't need to go into the nitty gritty of an orange peel, we just have a database like these companies actually do this and this and this with the orange peel. So we just match. So hence the dating site, we match the supply and demand.
Barry O'Kane 26:36
It sounds really cool. To be honest, it's not like the variety built in is kind of it must be very challenging, but it's it sounds like the sort of enjoyable part as well. As you said, you describe areas of business focused on impact. So it must be challenging and enjoyable to be looking at these scenarios and then going in and then actually seeing the impact that you're having.
Maayke Damen 26:54
Yeah, that's really wonderful. We conducted a big pilot because when we started Companies are like yeah, waste has a destination. What are you talking about? Like Yeah, but I'm like we are like sure it can have a much better destination, which saves you a lot of money and really has a big impact on the environment. So what we did, it's like okay, let's test this. So we gathered 10 really big corporates in the Netherlands like Schiphol, the airport, Philips, Sodexho, you might know [inaudible] you might know like really big companies. [inaudible] as well the railway company. And with them, we looked at their waste streams and if we could actually find a higher value destination for that and and the results of that were really astounding. We looked in total at 17 waste streams for 10 companies at the time, and we created I think, 64 million in financial value for these companies. We reduced the amount of carbon emission equal to everyone in Amsterdam would you like 863 thousand people driving in a car to Milan and saved enough energy to let the street lights of Paris burn for five years and enough water to fill up 860 Olympic swimming pools so we were like, Whoa, this is much more than we thought it was going to be. And that is just for, I mean 17 waste streams in total with 70,000 tons. So that's seven Eiffel Towers, if that means more to you, it's not that much compared to the volumes that go through our economy. Yeah, so the potential is gigantic.
Emily Swaddle 28:31
Yeah, that's pretty impressive. I love the comparisons with real life examples in terms of what's being saved. It's so much easier to kind of visualise those things than it is to say, however many watts of electricity have been saved.
Maayke Damen 28:47
Yeah. I agree.
Emily Swaddle 28:48
So have you noticed or what do you think about the kind of mindset change that's come along with this because, as you said, there's loads of potential here and finding that value in waste is something that you personally are really passionate about? What about for the organisations and the individuals that you work with? Do you think it's had an impact on how they see waste and their own waste creation?
Maayke Damen 29:12
Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's been a societal trend in putting this on the agenda. Like there is like plastic free living waste free living, there's lots of individuals that have showcased that it is possible. There's lots of movements, like don't buy anything new this month, or like secondhand clothing or rental clothing, or I mean, there's lots going on in this field. And I think that really has opened up the mindset of people to start thinking about this differently. And what we really see is that individuals and companies are really, really in favour of this. However, the big companies that we work for, they are governed by KPIs and those KPIs have not been adjusted to actually care for this. So the individuals really want to move and change and create an impact. But before this is really big ship basically has been steered into another direction, it takes some time. So we see that there's a bit of a delay there, which is very much understandable. But...
Emily Swaddle 30:16
Yeah, presumably the financial incentives that you've mentioned in terms of the value found in waste can be really helpful for changing those KPIs. And in those shifts within the organisation as a whole.
Maayke Damen 30:29
Yeah, for sure. We started initially only talking about but it's so good for the environment and with a bit more specifics, and they were like, uh, huh,sure, great.
But you can make money with it. Oh, okay. Tell me more.
Emily Swaddle 30:44
Yeah, it's always seemed to be the, that's the bottom bottom line, no matter how triple bottom line we try and be.
Maayke Damen 30:51
And I think, for these companies, I mean, this is what keeps these companies afloat as well. So even though maybe Personally, I have another outlook on on value. I do want to make a change in this world. And if I don't speak their language right now, I can have a really big impact if I do, versus I start my own thing separate from them, that takes me a lot longer.
Emily Swaddle 31:14
Yeah. And what about the other side? We talked a lot about waste and the reuse of it and finding value in it. But surely, there's also value in remodelling things to create less waste, so that they don't have to go into that cycle in the first place. So I suppose that's a bit of a devil's advocate question, but is that part of the system as you see it?
Maayke Damen 31:40
Yeah, very much. And I think right now, the resources passport is actually quite instrumental in this. So even though we mainly focus in our storyline on when it's already something that people want to get rid of, once you're given identity, like you can also see like what is actually in there like am I really like do I really need these materials or, for example, what we've seen happening so far, it's like, oh, so we glued these components together, but then we can't really recycle them. Whereas if we screwed them together, we can unscrew them quite easily, and we can recycle them. So hence, when people actually get an insight into all this is how it's done. And this is how it affects my end of live value, or this is how it affects my environmental impact. They have an incentive to actually start looking at the design. So we do see that happening.
Emily Swaddle 32:29
Yeah. And also then, with an understanding of what value can come out of their waste, presumably, there's also examples of organisations actually buying reusable products or buying pre-used products, instead of that original material and working that in. Is that something you found as well?
Maayke Damen 32:52
Yeah, yeah. We've seen that in the Netherlands. We have something that's called the resources agreement. And that says that in 2030- 50% of the materials that go through our economy need to be secondary and in 2050- 100% needs to be secondary. So if this is the goal companies need to start getting secondary materials from somewhere and actually put them in their products and we see in the Netherlands that the companies are really diligently looking at that. And however is difficult like is the quality good enough Can you show that are the volumes enough for my production process? So it takes some time before this whole production process is changed to cater to that but we see it happening. And internationally we see it happening as well unfortunately not the way we hoped it to happen. So what you can do with plastic bottles, PET. So you can recycle them and make them into clothing like fleece clothing for example. But what we hear now is a lot of stories from China where they have a PET, plastic bottle factory and next door they have factory that uses these plastic bottles to make clothing from it. And then they put these clothing on the market as recycled clothing. But so you just have that's not the idea, right? Recycling plastic. And then there's a premium price for secondary materials, which is weird because then they still can't compete with the prices of virgin materials. So the incentive is still not where you want it to be.
Emily Swaddle 34:24
Yeah, there's a bit of greenwashing going on there. It sounds like...
Maayke Damen 34:27
yeah, a lot.
Emily Swaddle 34:29
So you mentioned kind of the global aspect of this a few times. Do you work with companies all over the world? Or is it mainly Netherlands at the minute?
Maayke Damen 34:38
We work with multinationals, but their headquarters are very often in Netherlands or Northwest Europe. Because we see that in northwest Europe, there's a lot of attention to the Circular Economy, secondary materials use, how are we using digital tools for that? So there's a lot of interest from these companies in this area, but they're multinational. So we we can and the process that we have we can use anywhere on this planet.
Emily Swaddle 35:05
And what's the big picture? Kind of- big dream? For EME in that regard? Does it have the scope to become a big global platform?
Maayke Damen 35:18
Yeah, that's indeed the aim that we become the number one player in the world to make sure that secondary materials are actually exchanged on a large scale for a high value.
Emily Swaddle 35:29
Great, sounds exciting.
Barry O'Kane 35:34
Unfortunately, I think we're kind of running out of time anyways, as much as there'd be so much more to cover there. The question I did want to ask before we finished though, is there's anything that you wanted to share or if there's anything we didn't ask, you think we should talk about?
Maayke Damen 35:51
That's always a nice question.
Not necessarily. There's tons we can talk about here. There's tons of other angles we can cover. There's tons of perspectives we can take. What I actually hope is that people start understanding that waste can actually be a goldmine. And that this change in perspective starts happening that they start looking at how are we currently organising the processes to, to cater to a new reality where waste is seen as something that is actually valuable. But I mean, there's so many angles to that. That's, yeah, we can go on for two days-we still have stuff to talk about.
Barry O'Kane 36:35
Yeah, and I wanted to thank you for sharing all of that with us and joining us it is inspiring and I particularly liked what you said about impact being the focus because I think that as you talk about there people needing to do a paradigm shift of understanding or realising the value in waste or that there is no waste. That is a tough process to get through. You know, any shift any change is a difficult process. So having that bigger picture, or that desire to, to see the impact, I think, and businesses like yours that are enabling and encouraging that I think is really important and really encouraging. So thank you for joining us and sharing a little taster of what you're doing.
Maayke Damen 37:16
Yeah, thank you for having me.
Barry O'Kane 37:18
And just finally, before we go for anybody listening who wants to find out more about you, and about the Excess Materials Exchange, where can they go?
Maayke Damen 37:25
They can go to www dot Excess Materials Exchange, all written out.com.
Barry O'Kane 37:32
Wonderful. Thank you so much again.
Maayke Damen 37:36
Thank you too.
Emily Swaddle 37:36
You can find notes and links from this episode, plus a full transcript at HappyPorchRadio.com. If you are enjoying the show, please take a moment to give us a positive review on your favourite podcast app. Thanks for listening to HappyPorch Radio